Collegiate Gothic Style
©2004 Chuck LaChiusa
Buffalo Seminary is significant as a unique educational and cultural building which has served the needs of its female students since 1909. Originally founded in 1851, Buffalo Seminary is the City of Buffalo’s only non-sectarian, college preparatory institute for girls.
Located at 205 Bidwell Parkway, a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parkway which links the City’s sprawling park system (Olmsted Parks and Parkways Thematic Resources, NR 1982), the Buffalo Seminary building was constructed in 1909 by Boston-based architect, George F. Newton in a Collegiate Gothic style.
As an excellent example of the Collegiate Gothic style, the building is eligible [for National Register listing] under Criterion C. The Buffalo Seminary Building should also be considered eligible under Criterion A for its role as home to a significant educational institution which has served the Buffalo community for over 150 years and has produced several graduates who have made significant contributions to Buffalo and the nation.
- Jennifer Walkowski, SHPO
How Gothic Architecture Took Over the American College Campus
By Robinson Meyer
Pub. in The Atlantic
Sept. 11, 2013
American universities had always treasured the influence of Oxford and Cambridge. The colleges that would become the Ivy League were meant to model the Oxbridgian ideal of constructing a college around a quadrangle.
Even as buildings began to aspire to something “Gothic,” then, it was a decidedly ahistorical “Gothic.”
Collegiate Gothic, which followed Victorian Gothic, was much more precise. It emulated Oxford and Cambridge more directly.
There’s even a patient zero, of sorts, of Collegiate Gothic. In 1894, Bryn Mawr commissioned a new building, Pembroke. Its interpretation of Gothic so inspired other schools that they commissioned similar plans from the architects which designed the hall. (That firm, Stewardson & Cope, wound up constructing a near-copy of Pembroke on Princeton’s campus, where it’s called Blair Hall.)
Woodrow Wilson, when president of Princeton, has a now-famous quote about the revival: “By the very simple device of building our new buildings in the Tudor Gothic style we seem to have added a thousand years to the history of Princeton,” he said. Normally, the quote is truncated there, but in fact it continues: “…by merely putting those lines in our buildings which point every man’s imagination to the historical traditions of learning in the English-speaking race.” (Emphasis mine.)
Washington State University
(online September 2015)
The Collegiate Gothic Revival style is an early 20th century adaptation of the 19th century Gothic Revival style and served a specific function, educational buildings. The initial Gothic Revival style flourished from the period of 1830 through 1890 in the United States. It was often chosen for churches and institutional buildings due to its impressive, medievally-inspired form.
In the early 20th century the Gothic Revival style reappeared for an appropriate choice for both university and secondary school buildings. Prominent universities such as Boston College, Yale, Duke, and Princeton employed the Gothic Revival style (now called the Collegiate Gothic Style) in this period to create an atmosphere of respected antiquity.
Unlike their predecessors, on the inside they were constructed using modern materials such as steel, plaster, clay tile and gypsum board. While these designs were sometimes rather pared down versions of the more ornate forms of the style with only a few decorative details, like an arched and/or recessed entryways or a few decorative panels, these school buildings are clearly part of the Gothic Revival tradition. Masonry construction of brick and/or stone lent a sense of permanence and substance to the building, a fitting image for the public education system.
The use of Collegiate Gothic was also a natural choice for an educational institution owned and operated by religious groups. The architecture imbued not only a grand presence on the landscape but an instant connection to religious roots.
The Collegiate Gothic Revival style can be found throughout the state on numerous university campuses, as well as high schools and even elementary school buildings, both public and private.
The beginnings of Collegiate Gothic architecture in North America date back to 1829 when "Old Kenyon" was completed on the campus of Kenyon College in Gambier,
In 1894 the architectural firm of Cope & Stewardson completed Pembroke Hall on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. At Bryn Mawr, Cope & Stewardson combined the original Gothic architecture of Oxford and Cambridge Universities with the American Early Gothic Revival style and the local New England landscape.
The Collegiate Gothic movement gained further momentum when Charles D. Maginnis designed Gasson Hall at Boston College in 1908. Publication of its design in 1909, and praise from influential American architect Ralph Adams Cram, helped establish Collegiate Gothic as the prevailing architectural style on American university campuses for decades.
Collegiate Gothic buildings are typically rectangular in plan, and frequently have flat rooflines hidden by a stepped or crenelated parapet. Gothic arched entrances are highlighted by central towers and bay windows, as well as Gothic cast stone tracery. The exteriors can be of brick or stone, and are highlighted by bas relief decorative panels or plaques